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What’s the thing you [will] miss most about Japan when you leave (either on vacation, or move away)?
What do I miss about Japan? This has been on my mind a lot, to be honest. As most of you know (but not everyone. It’s buried back there in blog entries from a month or more ago), I finally left Japan. I thought that I’d never leave Japan. Ever.
Well, I mean, when I first came to Japan, I thought that I’d only stay the one year that I’d agreed to, and then I’d magically know what I wanted to do with my life. Like an adult should. Japan was fun, though, and I had unprecedented access to anime and manga THINGS. I could also go to insanely cheesy things like Tenimyu shows. After one year had turned into two, and then into three, I found that I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I didn’t want to be an English teacher. A lot of my friends liked it. The kids that I taught loved me. But it wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t my calling, and I was actually so miserable doing it that I began to get violently sick pretty much every weekday. The last month that I worked in elementary schools, I threw up repeatedly between classes because I felt so dizzy. I even started blacking out. I can only guess that it was from stress and misery.
It doesn’t take a genius to understand that it’s not for me at all. Even if kids are great. I actually plan to look for ways to help kids (teaching free art classes, for example) after I get settled in Hawaii. I have a feeling that I’ll love those classes.
So, yeah. But being a mangaka was barely on my radar. At first, it just had never occurred to me. I never thought to think that someone who wasn’t Japanese could write comics in Japan. A student who was a mangaka’s assistant tried to convince me that I would make a great mangaka, but I still wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until my American friend Eda started making douijinshi, and I started to get pushed by other friends to apply for manga contests that maybe, yeah, it was something that I could do. Moreover, maybe I’d be good at it! It was soon after that that I applied and got the job with Konomi-sensei.
Maybe you guys would be interested to hear more about my past? I’m happy to talk about it, but first let’s see.. What I wanted to talk about today was what I miss about Japan. Let’s see.. let’s make a list, in fact! 😉
What I miss about Japan:
☆ Not tipping. It’s not that I don’t think that my waiter/waitress deserves it. Far from it! But the servers in Japan are paid a fair(ish) wage. A normal wage, in any case. None of this “live off of tips that might or might not come” nonsense. I can’t say whether this is a better system or not, but as a customer, it really is! I come in, pay for my meal exactly the price that was on the menu, and it’s that simple.
☆ ANIME/MANGA stuff and events. This is an obvious one if you know me. I love anime and manga. In fact, the fact that I can’t now pop down the street to the bookstore and choose between hundreds of manga books/pick up one of 30-something new manga magazines, is killing me. I feel stifled, lonely, and I’m not sure at all what to do. Sure, I save money, but I’m not sure that the tradeoff is worth it. GIMME MY MANGA.
☆ Cuteness overload. In Japan, it is socially acceptable for a man to have a hello kitty phone strap, wear pink, and dress in slim jeans and a flowery shirt. Some girls took cuteness to extremes, but I’d take even that over the drab gray and lack of trying that I see in the US, at least in my mother’s small town. It may be better in the big cities like New York, and there’s certainly cuteness available on the internet, but I still find that the “West” is sorely lacking in Cute. I’d like to see more men embrace cute thing (unironically) and more girls understand that it’s okay to dress adorably.
☆ The trains. Oh, I used to hate them, and I still don’t like how they feel like a germy sardine can, reducing you to nothing but a body that means nothing to nobody, as long as you get where you are going. But the convenience was great. What I would give for a train network all over the US that was like that. Everyone able to go everywhere that they wanted, quickly and easily, and maybe even cheaply? The Shinkansen is a ripoff, being more expensive than a plane flight half the time, but if it was cheap… think about how much richer the lives of a lot of people would be in the US (for example) if there was a cheap cross-country train network! It would increase tourism like nothing else.
☆ Sakura-flavored everything. Heck, let’s just put seasonal, regional, and wacky flavors in general in with this. Every region in Japan had some famous taste to taste, and every season brought new weird flavors of coke, muffins, dumplings. Not that they were all good, but they existed, and that’s the point.
☆ Summer fireworks and festivals. I know that they’re a bit cliche, but I loved summer fireworks festivals. I didn’t love the smoking that plagued them and often gave me massive headaches, but when I was lucky enough not to be surrounded by smokers, it was lovely. So, so lovely. Fireworks yay!
☆ Simple, government-run healthcare. It was easy to enroll in, everywhere accepted it. It wasn’t particularly cheap imo but at least the cost was based on your income. I liked that I could use it anywhere and it covered 70% of almost everything.
☆ Karaoke booths. No, not singing in a bar in front of people. I don’t like bars and the thought of singing in front of strangers that are drunk makes me want to hide forever. Singing in a room full of my friends, though? Heck yeah!
☆ Purikura. I took less and less of them as time went on, but now I just want to take a million of those tiny photo stickers!
☆ Japanese fashion and makeup. Sometimes I liked the latest trend, sometimes I thought that it looked absolutely ridiculous (super-pointed witchy shoes anyone?). But I loved that so many people tried to look good. I especially loved how Japanese girls had this kind of eye makeup that made eyes look bigger and brighter. Ahhh. <3
☆ Food. I don’t miss a lot of Japanese food, especially since as a vegan I can’t eat it anymore. Japan also loves fried food and I never have. BUT I do miss kappamaki, mochi (mmmm!), and Japanese curry. I even miss toaster ovens! The only time I’ve ever had one is in Japan, so although I know they aren’t Japanese per se, they are Japanese to me. 🙂 OH, AND GREEN TEA. Not hot, but cold, refreshing green tea sold in bottles. I WANT/NEED IT. GIMME. Also, bentos. 🙂
☆ Feeling like I was completely safe walking home in the dark at 3 am. It varied based on where I was, but I don’t think that I’d feel safe walking alone anywhere in the US at 3 am. Not even on the beach in Hawaii. It’s too bad, because biking at night was my favorite way to get in shape.
☆ The feeling of independence, and hanging out with my friends. The feeling of wonder and adventure. How my environment was constantly challenging me. I don’t think that this is something that I can only get in Tokyo, but I miss it (and my friends!!!!) all the same.
GEEZ! I didn’t think that there would be so many! Gehhhhhhhh! And here I was ready to type up a list of things that I hate about Japan (SMOKING!). I guess that will have to come at a later date!
What do you guys like about Japan, whether you’ve been there or not?